Again and again, in the TCK world, I encounter the belief that “I travel, therefore I am (okay)”. The thinking goes something like this:
My experiences of travel are what make me interesting. Ergo, should I stop travelling I would become mundane, boring.
While it is widely accepted that global engagement through travel develops many positive characteristics, such as increased cultural awareness, we do need to be wary of the ‘ergo‘ extension of the sentiment. It is all to easy to imply, to others and to ourselves, that if those who travel are made tolerant and open by their experiences, that the less travelled must necessarily lack these same characteristics.
This article, “Five Reasons Travel Does Not Make You a Better Person“, is an entertaining read, but also does a great job of challenging some of the more glib assumptions we can make about the impact of travel.
The vast majority of my clients come to me desiring community. After all, many TCKs were raised in close-knit communities of expats, in international schools of similar ‘Others’, and it’s what we often most closely identity as ‘home’. One of the biggest hurdles we face as we work through how to nurture and invest in our own communities as adults is our own ‘terminal uniqueness’ (Bennett, in *M.R. Paige, 1993, pp.115)
If, in our more honest moments, we can acknowledge some of the beliefs that makes travel a moral imperative, we can perhaps begin to notice how we can obstruct our own community building efforts by complex filtering mechanisms that keep the less travelled at bay. Perhaps we even tell ourselves, it’s not worth investing locally at all, because we are leaving soon. After all, that’s just who we are – we can’t be tied down by the mundane. As in Belle’s immortal lyric, we cry, “There must be more than this provincial life!”
How about this radical alternative? You are interesting. Full stop. And so are they.
How would it be if we could harness our ‘interesting’ experiences to connect with the equally ‘interesting’ experiences of others? Can our uniqueness be harnessed through the power of empathy and imagination to connect with others, and so cease to be so lonely?
You cannot fail at your identity. You cannot be less of a TCK, MK, Military Brat, business kid or cosmopolitan because you have stopped travelling, be this just a pause or an indefinite stilling. We can do this.
We can move past the terror of stillness, of settling, and find peace in Selves that can connect with Others here and now. We can do community. We have done global. And we can do local too. Travel doesn’t get to have to get all the fun 😉
Need some support as you work through the impact of your story and your beliefs about yourself?
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*Paige, Michael R. ed. Education for the Intercultural Experience Yarmouth: Intercultural Press, 1993